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Tips: Self-Care Tips for Caregivers
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, July 2007

Avoiding Burnout

There are two realities when it comes to caregiving for a loved one with an illness. One is that this role can be a rewarding, life-changing experience for the caregiver and can make a world of difference to the person who is ill. The other is that every caregiver is a candidate for burnout, and some feel it more severely than others.

While many caregivers do cope well with stress and do not experience dramatic changes in their lives, others may be more susceptible to burnout. Recognizing common sources of burnout and proactively taking steps to minimize their effects is an important contribution toward self-care. You are no good for someone else if you are no good for yourself.

The secret is to stay balanced and give to yourself while caregiving for another person. When you do this, you will be less likely to experience extreme burnout. Here are some tips to keep in mind to help you.

Live in the Moment - Stay in the moment and have hope. By staying in the moment and seeing each day as a series of connected events, you can navigate through even the toughest situations.

Set Goals and Have a Plan - Having a plan that you can rely on helps to fend off frustration, depression and sense of hopelessness that is typical of burnout. Being prepared is the best defense. Do this by sharing as many responsibilities as possible with family members, friends, and professionals.

Develop Strategies for Coping - Review the strategies you have used before in other situations. Assess their value to you now and determine if alternative ways to deal with stress are in order. Don't forget to laugh and see the humor in some of the most bizarre situations.

Keep Roles in Perspective - If you are a caregiver for a parent, it is wise to recognize that your roles do not reverse. Your parent remains your parent, and deserves to be treated with respect, even if you are in charge of feeding or bathing him or her.

Concentrate on Your Own Health - Eat healthfully, exercise daily, meditate or do a relaxation exercise that reminds you to incorporate "mindful, restorative breathing" throughout the day, which helps you to sleep more soundly.

Join a Support Group - Not only does this help with feelings of isolation, it connects you with others who are experiencing similar day to day events and feelings. Nobody's situation is EXACTLY like yours but there are folks who are similar situations who can help you emotionally and spiritually. And, believe it or not, you can help others in the process.

Care for yourself as well as for the person who depends on you.

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